Lisa Bogard ’03 admitted she had a completely different career path in mind when she first started at the University of Findlay. But the experiences she gained through the University helped her shape her career into one she truly loves.
Growing up, Bogard wanted to be a veterinarian ever since she was five-years-old. She chose the University because of its pre-veterinary program and its small size.
“When I came for a college visit, I loved the small campus size where I knew I would be a name and an individual and not just a number,” she said.
She enjoyed visiting the barns and knowing that there were many opportunities for hands-on learning. After one visit, she made the choice to only apply to the University. She started with a major in pre-veterinary medicine, but by the time she graduated, she had added biology to her major and a minor in chemistry.
During her sophomore year Bogard was hired by the Toledo Zoo to work in the Children’s Zoo. “I loved caring for animals, but I also loved talking to all the visitors about them,” said Bogard. Still eager to help with any medical issues or procedures, Bogard volunteered with the zoo vets on her days off and during the school year. The summer of her junior year, however, she started considering different career options.
During her senior year, Bogard decided she no longer wanted to be a veterinarian. As she would only need a few extra classes to double major in biology, the decision to become a double major made sense and still set her up in the right direction to her new career path. She spent 11 and a half years working in the education department at the zoo and loved the informal education of the job. “I could talk to anyone and make a nature or animal connection,” she said.
Bogard especially enjoyed the outreach programs available for children’s hospitals. She loved the expressions on each of the children’s faces when she brought the educational animals up to their rooms. “I was so happy to watch the children smile and get so excited to see and touch the animals,” Bogard said.
After leaving the zoo, Bogard earned a Master of Arts in Zoology from Miami University and started working for the Hancock Park District in Findlay. In that position, she had to transfer all her exotic animal knowledge into a focus on the native environment. Although she loved her time at this position, Bogard still wanted something more. In March 2016, she applied for a naturalist position at the Crawford Park District. In reading the job description, she felt that the position had been designed just for her.
As a naturalist at the park, Bogard handles duties such as teaching summer camp and outreach programs to local schools, animal care in the Nature Center, public programs and special request programs. She educates the community on topics such as adaptations, skulls, animal furs, scat, fossils, hikes, ecosystems and habitats, as well as stream and wetland studies. She still gets the opportunity to work with animals, which had always been number one in her career choices. During the summer months she is able to enjoy some of her favorite outdoor activities such as archery and canoeing. To her, the job just felt right.
“I love that everyday holds something new,” Bogard said about the position. “I will never get bored because there is so much to learn and experience being a Naturalist.”
Although it is not the path Bogard had initially planned on taking, the choices she made for herself got her to where she is. And she “wouldn’t change a thing about it.” Because of her experiences, she encourages any student afraid of “blending” in with other students to choose a school with a smaller student to teacher ratio, like the University of Findlay.
“The University of Findlay is a great school that offers quality classes and professors that are willing to help you succeed,” she said.
She also encourages students to not be afraid to move to a new area and starting fresh, if the path they are on isn’t playing out. “You’ll find your niche,” Bogard said, “it’s okay if you want to change majors halfway through. The staff members are experienced with that and will assist you and get you on a new path.”